THE BOSS OF US
We lived in a Tuscan farmhouse in Italy, on land my children’s father bought in 1958. It was the early eighties in Camaiore, Lucca . This home was magical. He was an artist, and he’d made additions to it, room by studio by office, until it was a fascinating maze of work and home spaces, the smells of linseed oil in the studio and roasting peppers in the kitchen. The kids and I were having snack time in the afternoon.
Jesse was 6, Luke was 4 and Chloe would soon be 3. I made my espresso, and prepared our family favorite—a big, juicy tomato from our garden, smushed onto a piece of hearty bread, then drizzled with olive oil (made from our own olives on the hillside), and sprinkled with salt and pepper. A contented silence reigned, the kind only found in places where transcendent nourishment is being consumed.
At a certain point, Chloe had to leave the room to go to the bathroom. Before leaving, she commanded everyone there, pointing to her plate: “Non lo toccare!” (‘Do not touch it’). We assured her we would not.
She then carefully climbed down out of her chair, toddled through the entryway, through the guest bedroom, and into the guest bathroom.
Fairly far away.
We ate in silence, minding our own business. Talking quietly among ourselves.
During a lull in the conversation, a stern warning came from the bathroom, in her adorable, rough, raspy little voice:
“Guarda che ti vedo, eh.”
As in, ‘You know I can see you, right?’
What locks that moment forever in my mind is the conspiratorial sweetness in the kitchen, our smiling eye contact, and our mutual agreement not to laugh, followed by the very serious assurances we gave her.
In some ways, she has always been the boss of us.
Every family has their stories that reliably warm the room.
This is one of ours.